The January-February 2022 edition of 425 Business is the Legacy Business Issue. Here is the first in a series of features about local businesses steered by second-, third-, or fourth-generation leaders.
Upon stepping into The British Pantry in Redmond, it almost feels as if one has been transported thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean. Filled with the savory smells of shepherd’s pie and a subtle sweetness provided by the freshly made mince tarts, The British Pantry offers a slice of British culture to the local Anglophile.
“English food gets a bad rap,” The British Pantry’s owner and co-founder, Mavis Redman, said. “But I think there’s something for everyone.”
The 80-year-old matriarch was raised in a bakery — or, more officially, a confectioner’s shop. Her father was the lead baker in a shop near Manchester. After moving to the United States with her husband in the late 1960s, Mavis said she missed the sweet treats of home. So, she teamed up with a business partner to open The British Pantry in 1978.
The duo didn’t make a profit for the first two years. After five, Mavis decided to buy out her business partner.
Now entering its 44th year in business, The British Pantry has grown. It started as a small bakery — only 900 square feet — and has undergone five expansions in the same location. It now measures almost 6,000 square feet. In addition to offering baked goods, The British Pantry is a full restaurant and pub. It also sells small imported packaged English goods, hence the “pantry” in its name.
Despite its growth, The British Pantry always has been a family business. Mavis’ two children have worked there since they were teens. And now her grandson works there, too, baking alongside her.
“I was 13 when she opened it,” Mavis’ daughter, Alvia Redman, said. “I started working here on the weekends when I was 14. … Now my son, Graham, works here. It’s been great to work with family all these years.”
Being one of the only British shops in the area comes with its perks — even royal perks. It’s true: The Redman family has served British royalty. The shop was tapped to provide sweets for Queen Elizabeth II as well as Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana while they were stateside.
“It was very exciting and special to be asked to provide some refreshments for them, even though we never got to meet them,” Mavis said. Aside from that brush with royalty, she’s most proud of her business’s longtime success and the fact that she did it herself.
“It’s always been hard being an entrepreneur, especially being a woman in the late ’70s,” she said. “Everyone always thought it was my husband’s business. Oh no; it was me. I did it.”
The COVID-19 pandemic did knock the family for a loop, like most other businesses. But since it sells packaged food, it qualifies as a grocery store, and didn’t have to close during the shutdown.
“It’s been scary — like it has been for pretty much everyone else — but we’re doing OK,” Alvia said. “It’s funny, but the bakery has actually grown since COVID. We had to close down the pub, of course, but people still wanted to come and get fresh-baked things. Even though she should be retired, my mother still comes in and bakes.”
“Well, what am I supposed to do?” Mavis said with a Manchester-accented chuckle. “I still enjoy it.”